Too Much of a Good Thing: Alternatives to Jira Custom Fields

Customizing Jira for Business Teams

Jira is a great tool for business teams because it’s so easy to customize.  After all, the information a software team needs to track will be different from the information an HR team needs to track.  You can create custom fields to collect information that doesn’t fit in standard Jira fields, but be careful lest you fall into a murky swamp of slow performance and more custom fields than you care to manage.  In fact, Atlassian has identified the number of custom fields as the attribute which has the highest impact on the speed of the most common Jira actions.

Related:  Watch Atlassian’s Five Secrets of JIRA Performance at Scale

Wondering if you’ve got too many custom fields already?  According to Rachel Wright, author of the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, load time of your screens and your custom field admin page are good indicators.  Also, note how long your custom field admin page scrolls.

What should you do if you’re committed to limiting the number of custom fields, but still want to take advantage Jira’s flexibility?  Who should decide when a new custom field is justified?  And what should the criteria be for that decision?

Start by putting a process in place that project leads can use for requesting a new custom field.  Use the ProForma process template or the Strategy for Jira worksheet to gather information such as the proposed field’s purpose, type, screen schema and any needed validation rules.

Then consider the following questions:

  • Will the new field be used by multiple projects?
  • Will you query issues based on this field?
  • Will you run a report of all the values in this field?
  • Will the field duplicate an existing field?  (Rachel recommends publishing a list of existing custom fields and their uses to encourage users to make the most of what’s already there rather than requesting new fields.)
  • Will it duplicate core Jira functionality?

If you determine that a new custom field is indeed needed, pay special attention to creating it with the correct field type, as this cannot be changed later.  Having the requestor provide examples of the data the field will hold will help ensure that you select the correct field type.  (Or maybe you can suggest a better way to track the info altogether!)  Give the new field a generic name so that it can be used by more than one project.

Alternatives to Jira Custom Fields

Saying “no” to creating a new custom field, doesn’t mean you have to say no to giving users what they need.  You have a couple of other options for collecting the same data:

  • Use a standard field for a custom purpose
    Standard Jira fields can be manipulated to collect different data for different projects. For example, the Jira field “Labels” can be used in different ways by different teams.  A marketing team using Jira to track their production of marketing assets could use the Labels field to record the marketing campaign an asset is associated with.  The same field might be used in a different project, by the facilities team, to record locations.  You can use a field configuration to set a project-specific description of what should be recorded in the field, thereby prompting users to put in the right information.
  • Adapt an already existing custom field
    One custom field with two contexts

    Field contexts can be used to make an existing custom field serve different functions in different projects.  Field contexts allow you to set a default value and a defined options list for the field within a given project and with a given issue type.  For instance, you could create a custom field called “category”.  The HR team might use this field to store employment status and might have four options (full time, part time, intern, contractor) to select from, with “full time” set as the default value.  The finance team could use the same field in their project, but the options could be set to record different payment methods (EFT, check, purchase order, etc.)

  • Use a ProForma form
    Another option is to collect the information on a form.  Forms are an easy way for business teams to collect exactly the information they need without requiring changes and customizations to your Jira configuration.  Teams can design, build and deploy forms that gather data structured to their needs and validated with their business rules.  Many of the data points required to fulfill a request don’t need to be queried or reported on.  For those that do, the ProForma form builder makes it easy to “pipe” information from a form field to a Jira field.
Piping For Data Jira Fields in ProForma

Finding the balance that allows you to maximize Jira’s flexibility without sacrificing performance is a key consideration when expanding Jira to business teams.  ProForma can help.

Who’s in Charge? Jira Governance for Business Teams

Getting off to the right start is always the best way to go.  It’s not always reality.  We usually inherit things – business processes, Jira applications, our parents’ bad habits, etc.  In her excellent resource, the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, Rachel Wright recommends starting out by creating a Jira Advisory Board.  If you’re starting from scratch, this is a great first step.  If you’re already using Jira, now might be the time to put your Board in place, especially if you’re considering expanding Jira to other teams in your organization.

Different organizations have different ways of governing their processes. Rachel recommends that the role of the Advisory Board include:

  • Deciding what customizations to create and support in order to strike a balance between giving teams what they need and maintaining a manageable, high-performing application.
  • Setting standards for privacy, security, and storage and handling sensitive information.
  • Developing a process for providing support for teams’ Jira projects.
  • Determining what a successful Jira application looks like.  What metrics will define success?

Who Should be on the Advisory Board?

When you consider how powerful and mission critical Jira can be for your organization, it’s clear that it shouldn’t be directed by just one person.  But who else should be on your Board?  Rachel recommends a group of about five people including:

  • An end user – techy-minded or not
  • A Jira Administrator who understands the application’s capabilities
  • A Project Manager, Business Analyst or Strategist – basically a process-oriented person
  • A high level manager or VP who’s ultimately responsible for the work that gets done in Jira
  • A wildcard member to keep everyone on task

Consider having your end user or your wildcard member come from a non-technical business team.

Why Create a Jira Advisory Board Now?

You’re probably thinking, we’ve managed this long without a Board, why do we need one now?  If that’s the case, one of two things is probably happening.  Either your Jira Administrator is handling everything on their own, trying to please everybody, and relying on their own knowledge for deciding what should and shouldn’t be implemented.  Or you do have a group of people who work together to set standards and support Jira users – you just don’t think of them as an Advisory Board.

If you don’t already have one, the moment of expanding Jira to business teams is an excellent time to establish a Board.  Here’s why you need one now, even if you didn’t think you needed one before:

  • Expanding Jira to business teams will mean more requests for customizations; more custom fields, more screen schemes, more configurations.  With each request, you will need to decide if it’s worth creating and supporting the new asset or whether an existing field, scheme or configuration can be shared.  You’ll come to better decisions if you include multiple points of view.
  • You’ll also be collecting more sensitive information.  Consider all the personal information HR keeps on employees.  You need a policy to determine what kinds of sensitive information can be stored in Jira. Expanding to business teams also means you’re inheriting all of the privacy and security standards that apply to those teams.  Again, you don’t want to be deciding how to navigate that alone.
  • Finally, teams may be skeptical as to how well a solution developed for IT can address their needs.  That’s understandable.  We’re all experts in our own areas.  Having an Advisory Board that includes non-techies will help people feel more assured that their needs will be considered.

Easily Convert Business Teams to Jira

Expanding Jira to business teams is a great opportunity to bring a tool you already know, love and support to wider use in your organization.  Teams from Finance to HR will love handling their requests in Jira, being able to measure and predict their workload using Jira’s reporting and knowing that their backsides are covered with Jira’s end to end traceability.

Along with making sure business teams’ conversion to Jira is done right (the reason you’re setting up that Advisory Board), it would also be nice to have it done easily.  This is where ProForma Forms & Templates for Jira can help.  ProForma offers a template library and an easy to use form builder that puts teams in control of collecting exactly the information they require, without the need for custom fields, screens and configurations.  You may actually find yourself doing less Jira admin even as you bring more teams into Jira.

You can help your business teams have it all:  a great tool, a well-governed application and an easy conversion.

Teaming Up for Jira Business Teams

Jira began as a tool for software teams but has evolved into a tool for any team!  Business teams can benefit from Jira’s task collection, lifecycle tracking abilities, and built-in reporting.  Whether you’re on a Marketing team launching your next campaign, a Legal team preparing your next agreement, or a Human Resources team supporting people and processes, any team can track their work with Jira!

ThinkTilt and Rachel Wright would like to see more teams experience the benefits of Jira.  That’s why we’ve formed a new partnership “teaming up for business teams” to help you get started, thrive, and conquer your team’s “to do” list.  We’re collaborating on a series of articles to help you on your way.  Additionally, some of the worksheets from the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook are being added to ThinkTilt’s Process Template library.

Even if your team isn’t technical you can still use high-tech tools!  Email distros, spreadsheets, and shared network drives – be gone!  Your team has a real issue tracking database now with Jira.

About ThinkTilt

ThinkTilt’s Jira app, ProForma makes it easy for business teams to build and deploy online forms, backed by Jira’s great workflow engine. Empower every team in your organization to take control of their processes and deliver first class request management. All the information you need, where you need it.

About Rachel Wright

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator.  She is the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.  Rachel also uses Atlassian tools in her personal life for accomplishing goals and tracking tasks.  Her first book, the “Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, was written in Confluence and progress was tracked in Jira!

We challenge you to think of a type of team that wouldn’t benefit from Jira!

Join the Jira Conversation on Facebook

We started out with the Strategy for Jira LinkedIn group, as a way to connect and discuss Jira strategy.  Do you prefer Facebook?  Join the new Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/strategyforjira/ and post your question by emailing strategyforjira@groups.facebook.com.

We’ll post updates and answers to your questions on both social sites.  You’re free to start your discussion on either.

Ways to Connect

Group Rules

It’s simple – be helpful and kind.  There are no stupid questions.  We were all new administrators once and there’s usually more than one way to do something.  Please post your tips, ask questions, and answer questions about anything related to Jira strategy.  Let’s make this informative and fun.

Who wants to ask a Jira admin question?  See you on social media!

Industry Templates Joins “Give With DreamHost!” #pledge1percent

What’s the first thing you did this morning?  Brushed your teeth?  Drank coffee?  Took a shower?  Whatever you did, you probably used water.  Many of us have no idea what it’s like to be thirsty.  We have plenty of water to drink and use in our daily lives.  That is not true everywhere in the world.

Rachel Wright, President of Industry Templates, LLC and author of the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook has made a donation to DreamHost‘s 20th birthday partnership with Charity:Water.   Rachel has hosted all her business projects with DreamHost since 2003 and continues to be a very happy customer.  DreamHost is matching up to $10,000 of donations until Dec 31, 2017.  Charity:Water helps build projects that provide clean drinking water to people in need worldwide.

Pledge 1% MemberIndustry Templates, LLC is a member of Pledge 1%, a corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business.  As a proud member of this program,  we annually donate 1% of sales, product, and employee time to help the community.

Join the Give With DreamHost! campaign and help prevent diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

 

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Thank you for your non-profit work!  We applaud your passion, drive, and desire to make the world a better place.  We are pleased to support the community with a limited number of free digital copies of the JIRA Strategy Admin Workbook so you can make the most of your JIRA application!

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Winner, “One of Us” Atlassian Community Award

“One of Us” Atlassian Community Award

Rachel Wright was honored again at the semiannual Atlassian Summit user conference in Barcelona, Spain.  She received the Atlassian Community “One of Us” award.

This is a special award for Rachel who says “I became an Atlassian User Group Leader simply to learn more about JIRA. Four years later I’m a Certified JIRA Administrator, a Community Champion, and a published author!  I’m very proud that Atlassian considers me an extension of their team.  I love being part of this group of amazing Atlassian employees and fellow volunteers.

Award Details

The awards were announced on May 2, 2017 before a packed room of Atlassians, User Group Leaders, and Community members.

“This award recognizes a Community advocate who brings a level of positive engagement to the user group community. They consistently find ways to stay engaged in their local communities, the AUG program and with the Community team.

Rachel Wright joined our Northern Virginia user group 4 years ago and since then, she has gone on to mentor new leaders, author the JIRA Strategy Admin Workbook, and she is literally an extension of our team. She often creates necessary Confluence pages without us asking (including the Summit Europe travel guide!), is always happy to help us configure our user group leader JIRA instance, and welcomes each new leader warmly.

She’s been on an RV road trip since May 2015, finding time to help our South Florida user group kick off their first two events this past year and is looking forward to visiting our Austin user group later this year. She has spent more than 50 hours in the online Community, offering feedback and helping our users! She really is one of us.”

2017 Euro Summit Award Winners with Atlassian Co-Founder, President, and Staff